The Recapitulation of Kingdoms
The prophetic succession of empires is embedded in ancient political history. This has been termed “Dynastic Prophecy." There, the kingdoms of Assyria, Babylon, Persia and Greece are sequenced, finally terminating with Rome. Then a “child” of Rome – the Roman papacy is introduced as a unique church–state power. It becomes a major apocalyptic player.
This national structure develops a series of redemptive symbols designed to culminate in a kingdom that becomes the “kingdom of God.” Thus, with all the negative allusions to earthly kingdoms, a perfect end is in store. This final kingdom has citizens which God is now recruiting.
God chose out of history four literal kingdoms to be special prophetic metaphors that lead to an eschatological climax. This is introduced through Nebuchadnezzar’s mysterious statue dream that God described through Daniel.
The first kingdom reference comes in Daniel 2:38. “Thou art this head of gold.” Babylon is the hallmark nation that will be noted repeatedly in dual prophecies within Psalms, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekial and Revelation. Literal history becomes apocalyptic prophecy that leads to God’s final rule.
There is a temptation to begin with Assyria because of challenges in identifying numbered “heads” and “horns.” We simply add to prophecy when this is done. God says that the end-time kingdom studies have their onset with Babylon and terminate with a Roman power. That is the divine framework, the architecture that all prophetic fabric is stretched over.
Nebuchadnezzar’s image is metallic, with an adulteration of iron by clay at its feet and toes. The value of the metals decrease in their kingdom procession. But the strength of the elements increase in the sequence until that mixture. The literal periodization of history ends with iron Rome but becomes contaminated when it is mixed with clay! What power became an “admixture” to that once invincible empire? It is Papal Rome – a church/state composite power.
The Prophetic Transition
The interpretation of the metallic imagery ends in Daniel 2:43: “And whereas thou sawest iron mixed with miry clay, they [this church–state power] shall mingle themselves with the seed of men [global influence]: but they shall not cleave one to another, even as iron is not mixed with clay.” Though our initial take is historical, a sudden prophetic reality is interjected. The church–state composite is weaker, yet symbolically supports the image. That world influence portrays a vital end-time papal leadership role. The destruction of those kingdoms is yet to occur by stone weaponry cut out of a mountain, striking that composite and crumbling all its support. Daniel submits then a shocking timing statement:
1. “And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever” (Daniel 2:44). Did you catch that? When God sets up His everlasting kingdom, those kingdoms will still be “living” – present. That certainly isn’t historical language! A strike at papal Rome brings all earthly powers to an end!
2. The kingdom statue dream was what would occur “in the latter days” (Daniel 2:28 – when God sets up His kingdom). The Accadian word akariyth is used there and infers far into the future. In this context it is a time surrounding the eschaton. This alludes to what Isaiah said long before: “And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the LORD's house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem” (Isaiah 2:2-3). The question again: What future is alluded to here? It is when the time or period arrives when God’s eternal kingdom is to be set up.
A singular historical focus on this imagery contracts prophetic end-time understanding. There is something dramatic about this prophecy and its final fulfillment. In Daniel’s interpretation he tells us how God’s kingdom arrives!
1. By a stone cut out without hands (Daniel 2:34).
2. The stone was cut out of a mountain (Daniel 2:45).
3. The stone becomes a great mountain (Daniel 2:35).
All this suggests that from a “mountain” on earth, a stone was carved out by a divine act, which grows into a kingdom mountain that fills the whole earth, which supplants all these other kingdoms. Here’s what is so incredible:
- That kingdom has not yet come.
- Yet, it says that when it does, it will be “in the days of these kings” (Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece and Rome). Have we missed something?
This means that there is a dual application, a spiritual metaphor, for each of those kingdoms that relate to the time of the end! If that is so – and the Bible says it is – there must be other prophecies that address this in relation to eschatological time. There is. Daniel 8 begins that amazing story and Revelation’s “Babylon” embellishes it!
What Might the Mountain and Stone Imagery Be?
The story of God’s kingdom being established that would fill the earth and “stand forever” was just described (Daniel 2:35, 44). All other kingdoms have been broken and disappeared (like chaff in a threshing floor being blown away – 2:35). Now Daniel details how that eternal kingdom comes “to pass hereafter” (Daniel 2:45b).
The imagery begins with a generally defined mountain that does not fill the earth. That mountain is the “source” of God’s final kingdom that will “fill the earth.”
- Initially, we recall David’s words: “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help” (Psalm 121:1). God is represented as there.
- Then that illustration alludes to where the Lord is: “Who shall ascend into the hill of the LORD? or who shall stand in his holy place?” (Psalm 24:3).
What is that “hill of the Lord” where He abides? The Old Testament picture draws repeatedly upon “Mount Zion” (called the “holy hill”) from where God rules (Psalm 2:6).
- This is depicted by Jeremiah: “For there shall be a day, that the watchmen upon the mount Ephraim shall cry, Arise ye, and let us go up to Zion unto the LORD our God.” (Jeremiah 31:6).
- Thus the “holy hill” also represents God or where He is intimately associated.
· The Bible talks about Zion’s children, sons or daughters (Joel 2:23 – ASV), Isaiah 4:4, Zechariah 9:9).
· A virgin daughter of Zion (II Kings 19:21, Isaiah 23:12).
Important is the expanding portrayal that Zion is the source of salvation (Isaiah 46:13; cf. 52:1-2, 7-8).
- Therefore, the mountain that the stone will be cut out of is best viewed as an established bulwark of divine power, when God has laid “in Zion … a foundation, a stone, a tested stone” (Isaiah 28:16).
- It is an image of Christ’s established work just before the end, where it will soon fill the whole world! It represents the early imagery of what will be its final kingdom.
- Out of where God dwells (Isaiah 8:18) comes a symbol of deliverance (Joel 2:32, Obadiah 1:17). The mount must represent the first Christ-centered corporate body who are eternally secure.
What, then, is the stone that is cut out without hand? It is not of human origin. Though there are many allusions to Christ, such as the “rock of our salvation” (Psalm 95:1), this stone or rock grows into an earth-encompassing mountain. Let’s analyze:
1. Divine origin
2. Cut out of that mountain – is part of that final Christ-centered body
3. Grows – expands
4. Fills the earth – it accomplishes His work
What representation would meet all this criterion? There are many metaphors drawn upon by scholars that describe what we see. The portrayal can be seen accurately in different ways. Since the original mountain appears to be God’s first kingdom expression at the end of time, it has to be best represented as the power – gospel - of Jesus Christ (Romans 1:16).
As we approach the end, a kingdom of grace will be established among a group of believers, based on the gospel of that kingdom. They will be unmovable like the mountain. This appears to be the picture of the 144,000 in Revelation, bonded to Mt. Zion – the firstfruits unto God and the Lamb (Revelation 14:4). They are without fault before the throne (Revelation 14:5). They stand on that Mt. Zion (Revelation 4:1) with the Lamb.
“They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea” (Isaiah 11:9). What knowledge? That of the saving grace of Jesus!
What then is the stone that comes out of this Mt. Zion? Again, it must be the gospel from that small beginning of Zion’s kingdom. It spreads through the earth, unquestionably by the 144,000, until the whole world is filled with the message of God’s kingdom. The influence of grace – the gospel of Zion – will touch every heart. There will be no excuse not to become a citizen. The kingdoms of this world will then become a residue of nothingness. The kingdom of grace will be established based upon the gospel of that kingdom.
Could this stone be personified as His witnesses at the end? God’s people were seen (implied) as stones, making up His church – the “holy temple” (Ephesians 2:22). Peter called the chosen of God “living stones” (I Peter 2:5). Since the stone “becomes” a mountain, the gospel of that kingdom is the best illustration – but under the work of God’s people.
The first group to go out “conquering and to conquer” are depicted by the “white horse” of the first Seal. The work is not completed when the Seal is broken. Christ is the rider. The bow means the work will “hit its mark.” The crown of victory in His hand assures that the battle will be won. The stone – the gospel they carry, the “testimony of Jesus” and the “faith of Jesus” – as the white horse and the witnesses of Revelation 11 – all depict the final work of God’s first corporate body, carrying that message of Jesus to the world.
Lest We have Prejudice
A reapplication of the kingdom prophecies is resisted by many. God dropped the first hint that this reoccurs at the time of the kings and kingdoms right at the end (2:44). In another pointed prophecy He conveys a similar reminder: “I beheld then because of the voice of the great words which the horn spake: I beheld even till the beast was slain, and his body destroyed, and given to the burning flame. As concerning the rest of the beasts, they had their dominion taken away: yet their lives were prolonged for a season and time” (Daniel 7:11a, 12).
Several event-driven images come again before us:
1. Daniel watched the fourth ugly beast that had the little horn until it was destroyed by fire (that’s Revelation 19:20). He saw it into a final end-time setting!
2. The other beasts, he noted, did have their dominion or kingdom “taken away” (literal fulfillment), but their lives were prolonged for a special season and time (end-time spiritual metaphor – dual application)!
What season and time? When there is a reapplication of those four kingdoms! Daniel 8 tells us it is for the “appointed time” at the “time of the end” (8:17, 19). In that series of visions Babylon has fallen, then comes Medo-Persia and Greece in a metaphor of Christ and Satan with their “hosts.” The last scene is of a little horn in a papal reapplication that grew and became great. That horn comes to its end “without hands” (8:25). There is no military action there. It is precisely the imagery of Revelation 16:19 with Babylon’s termination. From many prophecies we know that at the end of time, the seasons of the Jewish feasts outline as prophetic metaphors how time will march right toward the end.
Thus, it is imperative that we understand the reapplication of prophecy, kingdoms, seasons and also the second rise of the blasphemous little horn. We must remember also that whenever there is a horn – a beast is nearby. Those four kingdoms have another elevated meaning right at the end – which – we have now entered.
Franklin S. Fowler, Jr., M.D.; Prophecy Research Initiative © 2010
EndTime Issues…, Number 99, February 4, 2010
1. Grayson, Texts, 6-37, quoted by Goldengay, John E.; Daniel – Word Biblical Commentary, vol. 30 (Word Books, Publisher – Dallas, TX), p. 41.
2. Sib. Or. 4.
3. White, Ellen G.; Manuscript Releases, vol. 15, p. 39, 1899.
4. TWOT Hebrews Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament.
5. White, Ellen G.; The Great Controversy, pp. 399-400.